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Howlround: "How race relations in the United States directly affected the development of musical theatre
Last Edit: Delvino 11:27 am EST 02/07/19
Posted by: Delvino 11:24 am EST 02/07/19
In reply to: re: Did Michael Bennett Say This? - Delvino 07:02 am EST 02/07/19

The issue isn't an accusation that Bennett and Prince set out to replicate a minstrelsy presentation, but rather to trace the origin of the concepts. Remember, "Follies" also used the torch ballad (Sally) and baggy pants vaudeville clown (Buddy). "Loveland" was brilliant pastiche, a mash-up of several forms. The "Follies" creators are innocent of any intentional desire to exploit minstrelsy. But that doesn't alter the origins of the conceit in the "Lucy and Jessie." Even Phyllis shaking her finger at the faceless ensemble has an element of the critical interlocutor. But as scholars point out, the white gloves/tux combo began in this 19th century tradition.

"...the birth of minstrel shows, which were performed by large casts of actors, almost all in blackface aside from the interlocutor—the one white character who served as a leader to the group and was portrayed as much more intelligent and sophisticated than the other performers. He sat in the center of the performers and guided the show along with his power to nag at the blackface performers..."

And:

"...As offensive as blackface was, the upside was that it was possible to disguise black performers by applying the same blackface makeup to their faces and requiring them to wear white gloves throughout performances...."

The white gloved ensemble was certainly not employed in a racial way, to be sure. But like Buddy's vaudeville costume being borrowed from that era of live performance, the "Lucy and Jessie" imagery's vocabulary derives from fundamental minstrelsy tradition. That's what's intriguing, the absorption of this vocabulary into several of our entertainment forms, long after minstrelsy itself was viable or remotely welcome.
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